New law ‘will not al­ter ABC’

Sen­a­tor says ‘up­roar’ a waste

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News - KYLAR LOUSSIKIAN

A TURN­BULL gov­ern­ment move to en­shrine a “fair and bal­anced” ABC will not change any­thing about how the public broad­caster now op­er­ates.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Mitch Fi­field said the “up­roar” about the pro­posed changes was un­nec­es­sary be­cause fair treat­ment and bal­ance “are not new or strange jour­nal­is­tic con­cepts”.

The gov­ern­ment plans to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to add a re­quire­ment to be “fair and bal­anced” to the ABC Act by the end of the year, as well as amend­ments to re­quire an “ex­plicit fo­cus on re­gional and ru­ral ar­eas”.

The move is part of a deal Sen­a­tor Fi­field reached with One Na­tion which guar­an­teed sup­port for sweep­ing me­dia re­forms passed by the Se­nate last week.

“(The ABC) will op­er­ate ex­actly as it does now, and that is the ABC will make judg­ments on these mat­ters,” Mr Fi­field told ABC’s In­sid­ers yes­ter­day.

“The gov­ern­ment doesn’t have a role in editorial ar­range­ments at the ABC. That’s not go­ing to change ... we’re sim­ply re­in­forc­ing through leg­is­la­tion that which is al­ready in the ABC’s own editorial poli­cies.”

The leg­is­la­tion also re­quires the ABC board to have at least two di­rec­tors with “sub­stan­tial” con­nec­tion to re­gional Aus­tralia. It must also dis­close salaries of staff earn­ing more than $200,000.

But it is un­likely the leg­is­la­tion will pass the Se­nate with La­bor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon op­posed. Sen­a­tor Xenophon last week agreed to pass me­dia re­form laws in ex­change for a $60.4 mil­lion fund to sup­port small com­mer­cial pub­lish­ers. A num­ber of out­lets, in­clud­ing Guardian Aus­tralia and the ABC’s Emma Al­berici, have criticised that fund. “... gov­ern­ment hand­outs is not go­ing to bring them more view­ers, lis­ten­ers, read­ers,” Al­berici (left) wrote on so­cial me­dia last week. News Corp Aus­tralia, pub­lisher of The Daily Tele­graph, along with Fair­fax Me­dia and Guardian Aus­tralia, is not el­i­gi­ble for those grants.

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